Artist Spotlight: Nicole Horsman

Nicole Horsman's beautiful clocks.

As each day brings us closer to the April 16th opening of UConn’s Senior Show, illustrator and animator Nicole Horsman is drawing feathery clocks.

They’re for her senior project, which is an incredible feat of animation using traditional media: pens, paint, and film. For character development, Nicole looked to her cultural heritage to create her protagonist: a German ührenschlepper, Klaus, who walks cross-country to sell the clocks on his back. The story stems from a rush of creative inspiration in the concluding project of a semester-long stop-motion course.

As Nicole continued to work with Klaus, however, she found herself unsatisfied with his story, which, to her, didn’t feel like much of a story at all. Preoccupied with this clock-peddler’s narrative, Nicole spent two months immersed in the generative process, capturing her ideas with ink and watercolor in sketchbook and notebook alike, and talked it through with other art students. She was struggling with the time metaphor, she said; the concept wasn’t gelling with whatNicole's exploration of different facial structures for Klaus. she envisioned for Klaus.

Then some friends suggested that she work with what interested her most: human interaction, experiences, and emotions.

Her idea took off. She reset the story, incorporating two characters this time: Klaus, the clock-maker, and his wife, who carves antique birds out of wood.

“They worked together but separately,” Nicole explained, “and when his wife dies, Klaus begins incorporating her work into his own, moving it onto his table. The blues and birds are the wife’s identifiers, and the clocks are his … It’s kind of a tale of ‘love is never gone.'”

Now that the story has been finalized, Nicole can get to work on filming the piece, using an intricate system of layering planes of glass on her “rig” and lighting different sections to produce depth in otherwise two-dimensional animation. A detailed description of her process with pictures is viewable on her website.

The piece she created that inspired it all now serves as a trailer for her senior project:

Although her senior design project centers around a bittersweet narrative, Nicole’s style tends to be more lighthearted. However, she finds the creative process itself most rewarding. As she states on her website:

LIFE TIPS from an Optimistic Otter

“Sketching is where I feel the most freedom during the creative process.  My sketchbook is something that people rarely see; it as a place where there is no fear of judgment or critique, where immediacy and experimentation is its own reward. In my sketchbooks I draw from life. Drawing from life means quick sketching and finding gestural lines to quickly map figures in an environment. I focus on facial expressions and body language to capture a character. I enjoy finding humor and quirks in humanity.  There are only a few choice sketches that are curated to become fully rendered illustrations, destined for an audience or public view.”

Nicole is also on the installation committee for the Senior Show, where she will optimize the spatial organization of the pieces.

“This gives artists the opportunity to have experience hanging in the galleries,” she said.

To see the final product of her and other artists’ work, attend the Senior Art Show on Thursday, April 16th, at the ArtSpace in Willimantic.

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